Tokyobling's Blog

Yattokoren – Shimokitazawa Awaodori

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 16, 2014

Awaodori festival season has started and one of the bigger festivals of the summer is the Shimokitzawa Awaodori festival. It’s a two day event, on the 9th and 10th of August, from 18:30 to 20:30. The narrow streets of Shimokitazawa makes for a very intimate and friendly festival where the audience is very close to the dancers. The drummers especially can be dangerous so it is usually best to stand back a little.

I saw the Yattokoren at last year’s festival, one of the local Shimokitazawa teams. The shotengai, or shopping street, where the festival takes place is called Ichibangai which has been place of commerce since the 1920s and really grew big after the second world war as most if survived the bombings and many merchants from other areas flocked to Shimokitazawa. The Awaodori festival was started in 1966 and this year’s festival will be the 49th.

Shimokitazawa is a great place to hang out and there’s plenty of shops and unique little restaurants and alleys to explore, so if you have time in August this year, make sure to visit!

The festival has an English homepage here.

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Shimokitzawa Awaodori Festival – Event

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 9, 2014

If you are in Tokyo on the 9th and 10th of August, I recommend visiting the Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival for some fantastic Awaodori fun! OI visited on the Saturday event of last year’s festival and got these two groups, the Toshusai (東洲斎) and the Showashinyoginkoren (昭和信用金庫連) which is a team made up of people working in a shinkin bank, a sort of cooperative credit union).

Shimokitazawa is easy to reach on the Odakyu line or on the Keio Inokashira line. The station was recently rebuilt and is now quite a maze and much in contrast with the surrounding area of funky little shops, narrow back streets and cool clubs and bars, good old Shimokita remains the same though! Try to be there early and if you find it crowded try to move away from the station area to find the spots with fewer spectators!

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More Kitazawahachimangu Omikoshi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on November 13, 2013

Moving these omikoshi around is definitively a team effort. It would probably be much easier with about a dozen members but that would be defeating the purpose of this exercise, which is partly to create a group effort to help train the parishioners in pulling together, trusting each other and working as a group rather than a bunch of individuals. It is supposed to be difficult, and getting so many people to pull in one direction is very difficult indeed. The omikoshi took quite some time to finally stop, see-sawing it’s way through the crowd and requiring quite some effort from the leaders of the neighborhood to push it back when it got to close to the final position. At the end, the neighborhood leader will stand on one of the uma, the wooden blocks where the omikoshi is placed to rest, and guide it forward, close enough so that he is able to step up on it and signal the lowering of the omikoshi by clacking to wooden blocks together. It is great fun to see how well coordinated the different omikoshi teams around Tokyo are! The members of this one was very energetic!

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Bringing Up the Omikoshi – Kitazawahachimangu Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on November 11, 2013

The festival season is definitively over but this year’s was a good one. One of my favorite festivals from last season was the Kitazawahachimangu Matsuri (北澤八幡宮祭り) in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. I followed one of the omikoshi belonging to the Yonchome neighborhood just to the south of the shrine. Not all of Yonchome are actually within the parish of this shrine but for this festival I think all of the neighborhood is invited, parishioners or not. They were the last team to brave the stairs and carry the more than a 1000kg heavy omikoshi up towards the shrine. There are actually two large stairs leading up to the shrine but the last one is just too steep so the omikoshi stay on the second stage. That stair is steep enough though and tourists and festival goers scattered over the rails to get out of the way as the omikoshi charged up. Other less adventurous (and probably smarter) photographers stood out of the way well in advance. Myself I made a less glamour but very nimble exit over the railings. More photos to come!

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